Slackjawed creationist surprised at his own incompetence at a scientific job

| 34 Comments | 1 TrackBack

I am so amused. A creationist lost his job at Woods Hole, and he was a zebrafish developmental biologist. Hey, I know a little bit about that!

The creationist, Nathaniel Abraham, briefly held a post-doctoral position under Mark Hahn at Woods Hole. Here's the creationist's side:

Nathaniel Abraham filed a lawsuit earlier this week in US District Court in Boston saying that the Cape Cod research center dismissed him in 2004 because of his Christian belief that the Bible presents a true account of human creation.

Abraham, who is seeking $500,000 in compensation for a violation of his civil rights, says in the suit that he lost his job as a postdoctoral researcher in a biology lab shortly after he told his superior that he did not accept evolution as scientific fact.

And here's the scientist's side:

But on Nov. 17, Hahn asked him to resign, pointing out in the letter that Abraham should have known of evolution's centrality to the project because it was evident from the job advertisement and grant proposal.

". . . You have indicated that you do not recognize the concept of biological evolution and you would not agree to include a full discussion of the evolutionary implications and interpretations of our research in any co-authored publications resulting from this work," Hahn wrote in the letter, which the commission provided to the Globe. "This position is incompatible with the work as proposed to NIH and with my own vision of how it should be carried out and interpreted."

The commission [the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination] dismissed his complaint earlier this year. The commission said Abraham was terminated because his request not to work on evolutionary aspects of the project would be challenging for Woods Hole because the research was based on evolutionary theories.

Continue reading "Slackjawed creationist surprised at his own incompetence at a scientific job" (at Pharyngula)

1 TrackBack

Via Tim Sandefur comes news that Nathaniel Abraham's lawsuit against the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has been tossed. Abraham,

Read More

34 Comments

I actually work on employment discrimination cases and it is possible there is merit to the lawsuit here. Now, we all know that a good knowledge of evolution is important for anyone doing research in the life sciences. However, the standard of the law is that the *specific* duties of Abraham’s job require him to understand and apply evolutionary principles in order for his rejection of evolution to be a grounds for termination.

From the news article this may be the case: “In a 2004 letter to Abraham, his boss, Woods Hole senior scien tist Mark E. Hahn, wrote that Abraham said he did not want to work on “evolutionary aspects” of the National Institutes of Health grant for which he was hired, **even though the project clearly required scientists to use the principles of evolution in their analyses and writing.**”

If that’s true, then I doubt Abraham has much of a case. But news stories are notoriously unreliable and incomplete, especially regarding science items, so it would not surprise me if important items were left out. Of course, neither would it surprise me to learn the story is true on face value and that this is just a whiny creationist demanding official validation for his wackjob worldview.

I’m considering suing my company for making me work 8-5 Monday through Friday. That goes against my religious beliefs of not working and still getting paid.

“Abraham got an appointment as a post-doctoral researcher at the Hahn lab several years ago, but was fired in 2004 when he announced to Dr. Hahn that he was a Creationist and would refuse to include any material in publication on which he was a co-author if that material mentioned evolution.”

The guy has a right to his own beliefs but when he is trying to tell his PI that the PI can’t use any of his data in publications if the publication mentions evolution, that is just wrong. It was clear from the beginning that the projects involve evolution, so there is an expectation that publications will mention evolution.

Crosspost PZ board:

Definitely something way out here.

A Ph.D. in philosophy doesn’t sound very useful for analyzing data either. One would rather have someone with computer skills or mathematics. These days molecular evolution is usually a lot of number crunching of sequence data.

Abraham got a job and refused to do it. So what does he expect? This might have been a setup from the creos from the start.

The bigger mystery, how did he get hired? Mark Hahn might have thought a bit about hiring a Ph.D. in philosophy when there are hordes of qualified Ph.D.s running around, especially in Mass. Or he didn’t bother to check his references and CV which might have been “creative”. Or he might have hired the guy as a favor for someone.

Alternatively, Abraham might have cooked his application materials thoroughly and was a convincing liar.

More questions than answers here. This is an iceberg, most of the story is hidden right now.

…but was fired in 2004 when he announced to Dr. Hahn that he was a Creationist and would refuse to include any material in publication on which he was a co-author if that material mentioned evolution.”

This is screwball too. Since when does a postdoc tell the PI what he can and cannot do with the data or have veto over what goes into a paper and doesn’t? Running around anywhere and telling your boss what to do and what not to do is a good way to get fired anywhere.

Hmmm, maybe Hahn should file a religious discrimination case here and claim that his postdoc is persecuting him for believing in reality and trying to censor his scientific papers.

What kind of univ is that St. John’s University in New York? Undergrad factory? Diploma mill? or a Research univ?

Scholar.google.com search up lots of false hits, N Abraham and Nathaniel Abraham being very common names. Is it possible to dig up this guy’s CV so that someone can check how creative our Post Doc fellow was with his credentials?

St John’s Univ library, Jamaica, NY lists his thesis:

Abraham, Nathaniel. Role of Programmed Cell Death in Defining Zebrafish Development. Thesis (Ph. D.)–St. John’s University, 2004, 2004.

The title does not appear to be from a philosophy dept, the newspaper was slack, it appears to be from the bio dept. Would be interesting if the thesis provides evolution based explanation or creation based explanation for the “programmed cell death”. Any lurker near Jamaica, NY willing to go there to check that thesis out?

A patent application is mentioned here: http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20060102086.html

Don’t know if the creos set him up to trip Woods Hole, or Abraham is setting up to milk the creos. We must admit creos are ripe for good bit of milking. By definition they believe.

The newspaper is simply confusing “Doctor of Philosophy” with “doctorate in philosophy.” My experience with the local press leads me to file this under “normal.”

If I tried pulling that crap during my postdoc, I would have been fired too.

I couldn’t find a vita for him, via Google, but I did find this in the SJU catalog:

Title: Role of programmed cell death in defining zebrafish development / Nathaniel Abraham. Author: Abraham, Nathaniel. Publisher: 2004. Description: x, 201 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.

So it was a PhD in Biology, and I can see how just on the basis of dissertation he might’ve gotten hired. From the date of the dissertation, it doesn’t look as if he lasted very long (I didn’t see anywhere when exactly he started at Wood’s Hole).

dpr

Nathaniel Abraham filed a lawsuit earlier this week in US District Court in Boston saying that the Cape Cod research center dismissed him in 2004 because of his Christian belief that the Bible presents a true account of human creation.

What’s wrong with this picture?

If I believed that the Bible “presented a true account of human creation,” the first thing I’d do is state plainly which one of the mutually contradictory accounts it was - the young Earth, old-Earth-young-life, old-Earth-old-life, etc. - then I’d proceed to find multiple lines of evidence to support it. And since evolution does not base all of its claims - in fact it bases none of its claims - on the weaknesses of Biblical accounts, I would find it only fair to avoid basing any of my claims on my perceived weaknesses of evolution. After supporting my own theory on its own merits, though, I’d be sure to note that not just evolution, but also all the other Biblical accounts that claim to be “the” literal one, had failed.

Not only would I not get fired, I’d probably get a Nobel Prize to boot.

How does one write a paper on comparative aspects of a signaling systems without referring to evolutionary mechanisms? Abraham would have had a difficult time writing a convincing discussion that would pass internal review with his boss much less review at any journal. Ignoring the problem by leaving out any discussion of the relationships between signaling pathways in different organisms would miss the central point of such a study. The conscious/unconscious ability to suspend disbelief is a powerful and when harnessed produces edifices like Ken Ham’s Creation Museum. The problem arises when it runs into reality. The best way to explain the data rests on either suspended disbelief or the results of the combined work 150 years of scientific advancement and the interrelated findings from a number of different fields of study.

At some point a rational scientist will end up like this the mind on overload and shutdown, posed by someone else and left for others to view.

This is all seems to be an exercise in salesmanship and in many cases the pawns are unwitting religious people. All the classic tools are employed, bait and switch, misdirection, false advertising, the parallels are disconcerting.

Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

Legally, I think his job might have been protected by Workplace Religious Freedom Act - not sure if that has passed, and it wouldn’t matter since he was dismissed in 2004. But, the proposed law covers working conditions, not the essential nature of the work. Any lawyers out there?

So the “*specific* duties of Abraham’s job require him to understand and apply evolutionary principles”; whether he agreed with them doesn’t matter so much if he did a good job of applying them.

Why would he be in biology if he didn’t accept evolution, unless he wanted to be a cause celebré? Would there ever be a law to protect the right of Christian Scientists to be employed as brain surgeons, or Jehovah’s Witness’s to draw blood at blood banks?

So the “*specific* duties of Abraham’s job require him to understand and apply evolutionary principles”; whether he agreed with them doesn’t matter so much if he did a good job of applying them.

He was refusing to apply them, in particular when working on any paper for publication.

”…The commission said Abraham was terminated because his request not to work on evolutionary aspects of the project would be challenging for Woods Hole because the research was based on evolutionary theories.”

What???..I’d like a job at the car wash, but I would rather not work with soap and water.

Was he afraid he might learn something??? Was he afraid he might be proven wrong??? Wouldn’t that have been the perfect opportunity to prove evolutionary theory invalid!

I do have to admit though, ID reasearch is much more.…relaxing…less pressure.…

“Abraham!…I need you to research how the bacterial flagellum came about!”

“Roger!…hhhmmmmmm.…God did it sir!”

“Good man Abraham!…Whew!…Now that’s out of the way, how about we knock of early for those doughnuts in the fridge!.….”

how about we knock of early for those doughnuts in the fridge!

That theory might have holes in it, too…

I actually work on employment discrimination cases and it is possible there is merit to the lawsuit here. Now, we all know that a good knowledge of evolution is important for anyone doing research in the life sciences.

If I lack confidence in an employees ability to do that job and I have a reasonable basis for that lack of confidence, I will terminate him/her and it is my legal right to do so.

Expressing a belief that the earth is 6,000 years old and that every organism that ever lived on earth was poofed into existence by an invisible creature with no basis in reality is sufficient to destroy my confidence.

It’s pretty simple, actually. If you insist on holding really really stupid and plainly false “beliefs,” then you had better keep those beliefs to yourself if you want a career as a professional scientist. You might as well be expressing your “belief” that DNA is made of cheddar cheese and proteins are tiny elves. The translation of such beliefs into scientific terms is: “I am a complete idiot.”

This has nothing to do with being “anti-religious”. It has to with being “anti-moron.”

As was mentioned over on Pharyngula, I and others couldn’t find a single publication associated with Abraham’s name in PubMed, even though his graduate mentor, Richard Lockshin, is well-respected in the field of apoptosis and publishes regularly.

No publications, and claims the right to withhold data from his PI… sounds like a real winner. No wonder Liberty University snapped him up.

The timing of this seems fishy to me. This news item from NCSE tells that Nathaniel Abraham has filed a lawsuit against Woods Hole, despite the fact that the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination ruled against him in April 2007.

I’m wondering if this being purposely brought up now for two reasons:

1. To draw attention away from the flap in Texas concerning creationists working to get the state Director of Science Curriculum, Chris Comer, fired? … or …

2. To stoke some public controversy and get media attention for Ben Stein’s “Expelled” - due out in February?

Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that these events were being manipulated behind the scenes to accomplish both 1 and 2 above. Can anyone think of a reason 3?

The timing of this seems fishy to me. This news item from NCSE tells that Nathaniel Abraham has filed a lawsuit against Woods Hole, despite the fact that the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination ruled against him in April 2007.

I’m wondering if this being purposely brought up now for two reasons:

1. To draw attention away from the flap in Texas concerning creationists working to get the state Director of Science Curriculum, Chris Comer, fired? … or …

2. To stoke some public controversy and get media attention for Ben Stein’s “Expelled” - due out in February?

Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that these events were being manipulated behind the scenes to accomplish both 1 and 2 above. Can anyone think of a reason 3?

Abraham has sued under the 1964 Civil Rights Law:

www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode42/usc_sec_42_00002000—e000-.html

Essentially, an adverse employment action based on a person’s religious beliefs is prohibited (with exceptions not relevant here) “unless an employer demonstrates that he is unable to reasonably accommodate to an employee’s or prospective employee’s religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.”

The biggest practical problem Woods Hole and Hahn face is explaining how it was, if Abraham’s work was so intimately entangled in evolutionary theory and no reasonable accommodation can be made to his beliefs, he could work there, apparently satisfactorily, for seven months without his beliefs causing any difficulty until it came out in casual conversation.

Oh, and St. John’s is a locally well-regarded Catholic univerity.

he could work there, apparently satisfactorily, for seven months without his beliefs causing any difficulty until it came out in casual conversation.

That is no mystery. It can easily take a year or two to get data together and write a paper. If he refused to write his work up or let a paper go out with evolutionary framework discussions, one wouldn’t find that out until the last stages of research. Which is what Hahn claims he said.

”… You have indicated that you do not recognize the concept of biological evolution and you would not agree to include a full discussion of the evolutionary implications and interpretations of our research in any co-authored publications resulting from this work,” Hahn wrote..

For that matter if someone is incompetent, finding it out in 7 months would not be unusual. In big labs at the Ph.D. level, no one is looking over your shoulder most times.

More to the point. It is not up to a postdoc to tell the PI lab head (his boss) what to do and when. The creo had no business telling the PI what would go in a paper and/or preventing the submission of papers from a lab.

St. John’s is a locally well-regarded Catholic univerity.

Makes this case even odder. The Catholic church doesn’t have a problem with evolution. The last 4 Popes have flat out said this many times. As Pope Pius once said, “One Galileo in 2,000 years is enough.”

raven Wrote:

As Pope Pius once said, “One Galileo in 2,000 years is enough.”

My favorite Pope quote, in fact, one of my favorite quotes from anyone in defense of science, was Pope John Paul II’s one about how the evidence for evolution is “convergence, neither sought nor fabricated.” By denying evolution, a researcher in essentially admitting that he either does not know how, or refuses, to do utilize that convergence effectively. That can adversely affect research in any field, not just biology. It might not necessarily affect it, as the activists are quick to whine, but as the publication records of Behe, Gonzalez, etc. neatly show, it’s an excellent predictor.

Yet another of the many ironies is how most of the activists oppose “affirmative action” yet demand that and more for their “kind”.

Calling someone “slackjawed” is hardly professional language. I expect more decorum from an individual with a Ph.D.

slackjaw: North American term for an extemely ignorant, possible inbred person. Usually of rural heritage. see also: hick, mouthbreather, yokel

seems to be a good fit here!

apollo230:

Calling someone “slackjawed” is hardly professional language. I expect more decorum from an individual with a Ph.D.

I’ve guess you haven’t met many PhD’s. They’re human. And they get really tired of morons who screw with them, waste their time and jeopardize their careers.

This has to be a Monty Python routine or a Candid Cameraesque stunt. If not their is something seriously wrong with this picture. Its like applying to be a concert pianist and then once hired objecting to having to read the music.

wow!

apollo230:

Calling someone “slackjawed” is hardly professional language. I expect more decorum from an individual with a Ph.D.

Bring your pearl clutching little self to one of my department’s invited guest’s talks sometime. You haven’t lived till you’ve seen a senior faculty member stand up in the Q&A and announce “you’re full of crap.” (pretty near exact quote, actually)

What amazes me entirely is that Abraham and his attorney Gibbs (late of the Terri Schiavo case) could be complaining about academic freedom when Abraham himself has taken a job at Liberty University. This required him to sign one of the most academically-restrictive documents on the planet, Liberty’s “doctrinal statement.” Their faculty handbook even indicates that tenured professors can be summarily dismissed for raising any question of the purely religious dogma that statement embodies.

More on this on Hyphoid Logic. I spent a good deal of time writing about this already today, so I’m going to be a bit lazy and invite discussion of these documents at the link.

I expect more decorum from an individual with a Ph.D.

So what?

So the “*specific* duties of Abraham’s job require him to understand and apply evolutionary principles”; whether he agreed with them doesn’t matter so much if he did a good job of applying them.

It helps to actually read what you’re responding to:

You have indicated that you do not recognize the concept of biological evolution and you would not agree to include a full discussion of the evolutionary implications and interpretations of our research in any co-authored publications resulting from this work

Sheesh.

Time for more of the slackjawed reactions to this: also posted on Pharyngula…

Check out these clowns.

The real issue is not science vs religion. I never let people couch the issue in those terms anymore. I always point out that evolution is a belief system or a religious/philosophical worldview that applies its assumptions to the world we live in exactly the same as one who holds a creation view of origins. The real issue is the creation science worldview of orgins vs the evolutionary science worldview of origins. I really hope this discrimination is exposed and repudiated and gov’t funds are cutoff from the slimy fingers of these atheists. These evolutionary atheists are such hypocrites claiming they are maintaining the “purity of science”. They are only perpetuating their $$$, wasting taxpayer money on something that didn’t even happen!!!! And brainwashing the population at the same time just like they did in Russia and China.

These people obviously don’t get, or don’t care to get, the fact that the guy got canned for basically refusing to do his job:

From the OP ”… You have indicated that you do not recognize the concept of biological evolution and you would not agree to include a full discussion of the evolutionary implications and interpretations of our research in any co-authored publications resulting from this work,” Hahn wrote in the letter, which the commission provided to the Globe. “This position is incompatible with the work as proposed to NIH and with my own vision of how it should be carried out and interpreted.”

Some clown wrote:

“… atheists are such hypocrites claiming they are maintaining the “purity of science”. They are only perpetuating their $$$, wasting taxpayer money on something that didn’t even happen!!!!”

Yea, what hypocrites. We’ll show them! I know, how about if I lie about my job qualifications and my personal beliefs, get on the payroll without having any intention whatsoever of ever doing what I was hired for, get fired for incompetence and refusal to do the job I was hired for, then sue everyone in sight for religious discrimination. That will sure show those atheist scientists up for the tax money wasting hypocrites they really are!

I recommend that if no publications are produced using work from this individual, that he be counter-sued for all of the taxpayer money he wasted by misrepresenting himself. He should also be forced to pay all court costs associoated with his frivilous law suits. These people must be held accountable for their actions. This is the guy who wasted all of the taxpayer money, why let him get away with it?

It will certainly be interesting to see how many publications this guy puts out when he is employed by an institution that shares his twisted view of reality. At least now he will be wasting someone else’s money.

How shafted must the unsuccessful candidates for that position feel? Post-docs don’t exactly grow on trees.

“Sure, I knocked out three gene expression papers as a student, but I’m flipping burgers now because Wood’s Hole hired a creationist instead…”

I have a degree in civil engineering but don’t believe in gravity. You see, the bible doesn’t say anything about gravity, so I don’t believe in it. I don’t see why I need to believe in gravity just so that I can design and build weight-bearing structures. Who can I sue?

Christian Nation:

I have a degree in civil engineering but don’t believe in gravity. You see, the bible doesn’t say anything about gravity, so I don’t believe in it. I don’t see why I need to believe in gravity just so that I can design and build weight-bearing structures. Who can I sue?

I take it, then, you don’t believe in the continents of North and South America, turkeys, the English, and the islands and inhabitants of Hawaii because none of these are spoken of in the Bible, either?

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on December 7, 2007 8:02 AM.

A Handy Graphic/Timeline of Behe’s Publication Drop was the previous entry in this blog.

Intelligent Design, and Other Dumb Ideas is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.381

Site Meter